TIAA-CREF Toughens Sudan Stance -- Without Divestment Yet

March 27, 2009

TIAA-CREF on Thursday announced a tougher position on several companies that have been accused of supporting the authorities who encourage the genocide in Darfur. Some groups have pushed TIAA-CREF to immediately sell such holdings, arguing that genocide is such a terrible wrong that any holdings in such companies are immoral. TIAA-CREF didn't go that far. But in an unprecedented step, it announced that it was giving selected companies nine months to show that they were taking "positive and meaningful" steps to stop the genocide. If they don't do so, or fail to meet with TIAA-CREF officials, their stocks will be sold. TIAA-CREF's statement stressed that it considered the Darfur situation to be unusual, and that the company did not anticipate an activist role as shareholders generally. "We recognize that genocide and crimes against humanity, whether in Darfur or elsewhere, require a higher standard of response," the statement said. "While we believe that attempts to use our standing as shareholders through quiet diplomacy is the most effective way to influence corporate policies and practices, in cases where companies may substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, we may intensify engagement, raise its visibility or limit its duration if we believe that such action is necessary to cause companies to improve their stance. Even in these cases, we believe that divestment should be considered as a last resort, only after efforts to pressure companies to revisit and change their policies have failed." TIAA-CREF officials also stressed that the companies linked to Darfur represent a minute share of overall holdings.

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